Matt and I have known each other since I was a freshman in high school, though we did not begin dating until my senior year of college. I knew very early on in our relationship (even before we were officially a couple) that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Matt. That may sound a little absurd, but when you know, you know! I remember a specific conversation with Stevie that we had after Matt and I had gone out on a few dates. Stevie had asked me about him, and I began blabbering on and on about how much I liked him and how happy I was, until I finally blurted out, “I think I’m going to marry him!” Stevie, of course, completely supported me. If I had said that to anyone else, they may have had me committed, but not Stevie! If anyone believes in true love, she does!
When I was accepted to graduate school in Missouri, he decided to come with me! Matt and I had talked about getting married after we moved in together, but, just starting out on our own 800 miles from home, we had no money for a ring or a wedding. We put it in the back of our minds, deciding that it would happen when the time was right.
Early this year, my maternal grandmother unexpectedly passed away, and my family and I were utterly devastated. I never realized until my grandmother was gone that she was the heart and soul of our little family. Her laugh and constant jokes are something I will always cherish. After her funeral, my grandfather asked my mother, her sister, and I take some of my grandmother’s things as a memory of her. We were also given something that she had worn every day of her life to split between us: her wedding, engagement, and class rings. My aunt, being the oldest, selected the class ring. My mother was then to pick between the final two, but before she spoke, she turned to me with tears in her eyes. “I think she would want you to have this,” she said, as she handed me the engagement ring. “Now you have a ring.” As I slipped it on my finger, I felt my grandmother’s spirit envelope me in love. It fit perfectly. It was as if I was meant to have it, as if she had told my mother in that moment to hand it to me. I was overwhelmed with both sadness and joy.
When I talked to Matt about the ring, we both decided that we wanted to wait for a traditional proposal to be officially engaged. I needed some time to cope with my grandmother’s death before I would agree to wear her ring for the rest of my life.
We had made plans that summer to visit Matt’s father and grandparents. They lived together in a riverside home in Gloucester, Virginia, a sixteen-hour drive away from our sleepy college town in Missouri. As Matt and I set out on our familiar interstates, our drive remained similar to any other road trip. When we finally got there, I was not only thrilled to be out of the car, but also to try my first Chesapeake Bay crabs (which were fantastic incase you were wondering!).
The next day, we planned to visit Virginia Beach and spend some quality time with Matt’s father. Unfortunately, the forecast was calling for rain, and it remained bleak and chilly. To our surprise, we found ourselves in the middle of a tornado! (We live in Tornado Alley and have never seen a tornado, but we drove 1000 miles just be caught in one on the coast!) Thankfully, no one was hurt, but it ruined our outdoor plans.
Now at this point, let me let you in on a little secret. While in the car, I had seen a small, square shaped box in Matt’s pocket. My heart was racing with excitement all day, hoping that it was what I thought it was. However, we returned to Gloucester without anything out of the ordinary. After we had returned, Matt asked me to ‘sneak out’ with him later that evening to go down to the water. I agreed as my heart began to flutter again. Would this be it?!
After everyone else had gone to bed, we ‘snuck’ out of the house and went down to the dock. Millions of stars lit the sky as the water gently crashed against the rocks. It was a beautifully romantic scene, but the best part of that skyline was just across the river. My favorite novel is The Great Gatsby. In that story, Daisy Buchanan and Jay Gatsby fall in love, but they cannot be together. Years down the road, Daisy has married another, and Gatsby, trying to win her affections, buys a house that is directly across the bay from Daisy’s. He gazes across the water at her house every night, where he can see a green light emitting from Daisy’s dock. On the other side of the river in our personal story, I saw a green light shining on someone’s dock. Even though Matt did not plan that, it made the moment all the more enchanting.
As I was pondering how perfect that moment was, Matt asked me if I wanted to dance with him. We danced in the moonlight to one of our favorite songs, Blake Shelton’s “Mine Would Be You,” until it ended, and Matt told me to grab a sip of my Coca-Cola while he put on the next song. I think I knew deep down what was coming next. When I turned around, he was down on one knee as the song “Marry Me” by Train began to play. With tears in his eyes, he said, “Rachel, will you marry me?” I said yes, and we just hugged each other for the longest time and spent the hour dancing on the dock. It was the happiest moment of my life. Nothing could smack the smile off of my face for days. There is no feeling in the world like the one you experience when you just get engaged!